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Glyphosate OK for another 18 months in Europe

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European farmers will be allowed to use glyphosate for another 18 months after European Union officials gave the herbicide a last-minute licensing permit.

European health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis confirmed the 18-month extension to the license for glyphosate at a meeting in Luxembourg June 28, according to an article in the British Farmers Weekly.

Growers and other users had faced the prospect of glyphosate being withdrawn had its license not been reapproved by a June 30 deadline.

Glyphosate has been the subject of increased controversy over recent years—particularly regarding whether or not it causes cancer.

Some studies have suggested that the chemical is a carcinogen. But the European Food Safety Authority’s concluded that glyphosate was “unlikely” to cause cancer in humans.

But repeated votes by EU member states were unable to reach the majority necessary for the product to be reapproved, the Farmers Weekly said.

The European Commission’s decision to relicense glyphosate for 18 months seeks to allow time for the European Agency for Chemical Products to reassess the safety of the product.

Although much shorter than a previous proposal to relicense glyphosate for 15 years, the 18-month approval will be welcomed by growers who rely on the product.

In response to the European Commission’s action to only temporarily extend the authorization of glyphosate for 18 months, Philip Miller, Monsanto’s vice president of global regulatory and governmental affairs, released the following statement:

“Today’s decision by the European Commission to temporarily extend glyphosate’s authorization by 18 months ensures that European farmers, municipalities, gardeners and other users will continue to have access to the herbicide glyphosate while a longer term solution to the product’s reauthorization is found.

“European farmers, municipalities, gardeners and other users have depended on glyphosate for 40 years as a safe, efficient and cost effective tool for weed control. Glyphosate meets or exceeds all requirements for renewal under European law and regulation. The overwhelming majority of scientific evidence and the EU’s own regulatory agencies have declared glyphosate safe for use.

“We join European farmers and other users in expressing concern over the recent rise of narrowly focused politics of self interest, where national or partisan political imperatives take precedence over facts, scientific understanding and the interests of its citizens. Monsanto urges the European Commission to present without further undue delays a proposal for a full renewal under the regulatory framework.

“Over the coming months, we will be engaging with Member States and other stakeholders involved in this process to understand their concerns, answer their questions and share more information about glyphosate’s long history of safe use. We look forward to productive conversations about glyphosate and the vital role it will play in sustainable agriculture for many years to come.”

European farm groups offered their opinions to the Farmers Weekly.

The Country Land and Business Association said the extension would allow for a definitive impartial view to be published before the license expires again. Removing the license based on poor science and a precautionary principle would be counterproductive, it warned.

CLA Deputy President Tim Breitmeyer said banning the chemical altogether would have a detrimental effect for agriculture and the environment and could also mean the use of less effective but equally harmful chemicals at higher dosage rates.

“It would add significantly to the cost of food production with a significant reduction in environmentally friendly conservation tillage and the consequential loss of organic soil carbon and thus further greenhouse gas emissions,” Breitmeyer said.

But environmental group Friends of the Earth, which has campaigned for glyphosate to be banned, insisted there was mounting evidence that the chemical was harmful to human health and should be withdrawn from the market.

“The government must now see that glyphosate’s days are numbered and produce a phase-out plan for this and other damaging chemicals,” FoE farming campaigner Clare Oxborrow said. “Farmers urgently need independent advice and support on other ways of tackling persistent weeds that do not harm our water, soils and wild species.”

Larry Dreiling can be reached at 785-628-1117 or ldreiling@hpj.com.

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